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The police response to domestic violence: Risk, discretion, and the context of coercive control

Myhill, A. (2018). The police response to domestic violence: Risk, discretion, and the context of coercive control. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, Universtiy of London)

Abstract

This thesis examines the issue of police response to domestic violence. It advances theory on this topic by applying the concept of coercive control to better understand the risk profile of domestic violence that comes to the attention of the police, and police officers’ use of discretion when identifying, recording and responding to domestic violence incidents.

The research questions for the thesis are:(1) Can cases of coercive control be identified in national population surveys, and, if so, to what extent is coercive control gendered and more harmful than other forms of domestic violence?, (2) Is coercive control the most common form of domestic violence reported to the police?, (3) What degree of discretion do officers exercise when responding to cases of domestic violence?, and (4) What factors influence police officers’ responses at the scene of incidents of domestic violence?

The thesis is structured around four published journal papers. Paper 1 uses national population survey data to show that coercive control is experienced primarily by women, and is more harmful than other forms of domestic violence. Paper 2 uses data from risk assessments to show that coercive control is the most common form of domestic violence that comes to the attention of the police. Using data from force systems, Paper 3 suggests frontline officers retain considerable discretion in relation to identifying and recording cases of domestic violence. Paper 4 uses in-depth interviews with officers alongside case-files to suggest that while officers are now more aware of policies such as presumptive arrest they are prepared to ignore such policies when they believe an incident is not serious; officers’ conceptions of what is serious were primarily incidents that involved physical violence and injury.

I conclude that legislation to criminalise coercive control presents an opportunity to change officers’ conceptions of domestic violence and what constitutes threat and risk. I call for a reconceptualisation of the research agenda on domestic violence to focus initially on observational study in order to understand better the factors that influence police response.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences
School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/19905
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